A Long Awaited Adventure
A long awaited adventure…
Two years of planning and the day had finally arrived, as members of our group arrived into Volivoli Beach Resort in stages throughout the morning and our Fiji dive trip was ready to begin. Jon and the Fiji Siren crew assisted us in boarding the dive tenders and off we went to the waiting liveaboard; our home for the next 10 nights. The crew quickly raised anchor as Jon began his boat orientation, we would be heading straight for Gau and some shark diving, making the most of the Spring tides. For many this was not their first dive trip with the Siren Fleet and Jon made quick work of his cabin briefings and with the dive gear set up in a matter of minutes, beer in hand we settled into the dining area to chat, catch up with old friends and meet some new ones.
Making an early start we back-rolled in at Jim’s Alley and Anthias’ Avenue for our check dives, with not so great viz the dives concentrated on macro critters, seeing plenty of my favourite; nudibranchs! Other sightings included clingfish, shrimps, anemone fish and even the odd white tip and grey reef shark put in a momentary appearance. Following a tight schedule of dive eat; dive eat; dive, we hit the incoming current at Nigali Passage for plenty of grey reef shark action. The narrow channel, with a rubble bottom at 30m (100ft) provides a basin in which the lazy sharks can grab a quick meal. Schools of jacks, snapper and barracuda were also seen, along with a huge marbled grouper – who for some reason felt a little camera shy. The dive ended at the enormous patch of cabbage coral… many thanks to my models Steven, Lynn and Jon. After a further dive at the viewing arena, we returned to the yacht full of gusto, excitement and for some reason incredibly hungry for Chef Andrew’s delicious Fiji themed dinner. Hmmm the Fish Kokoda was particularly divine.
Dives the following day had a similar pattern as previous though with a little more sleep time allowed. We spent the morning on the outer wall marveling at the stunning hard corals and huge table corals, whilst in the afternoon we returned to the channel to enjoy the currents and shark hunting activity, before upping anchor for Wakaya. Highlights of our dive day included sightings of turtle, sea snake with dinghy 2 also spotting our first hammerhead shark of the trip. Tonight’s dinner theme was Indian – and we all agreed it was delicious – second helpings…. Don’t mind if I do!
Anchor was hoisted at 3.30am and off we set for Wakaya, we are an early bird group so despite the promised lay-in all were up some time before 7am, enjoying banter and strong coffee. We dived in at Vatu Vai (Manta Rock) and Lion’s Den for stunning hard corals, brilliantly coloured anthias and a few critters. Our afternoon was spent on the island of Makogai where the villagers gave the traditional ceremony and a tour of the turtle & clam farms. Rian was our nominated chief and performed his part of the ceremony with aplomb – having only 3 bowls of kava! After another super evening meal we set off for our 10 hour journey to Taveuni; plenty of rocking and rolling and not so much sleep later we arrived for our first dive at Great White Wall.
We spent the next two days diving the stunning “Rainbow Reef”, with sightings of leaf fish, popcorn shrimp, octopus, blue ribbon eels and white tip reef sharks. We dived Great White Wall which drops down over 100m with white soft corals adorning the wall between 20-70m, as well as Annies Bommies, Jerry’s Jelly, Red Rock Point, Fish Factory and still had time for an afternoon visit to the Tavoro National Park waterfall and for a photo op at the international date line, accompanied by Richie and Knox.
Moving on the wind and rain had picked up overnight and we had a rocky journey to Savu Savu so our planned dives at Dreamhouse for the hammerhead sharks were no longer on the cards, instead we sought shelter behind Jacques Cousteau’s’ Island resort; making 3 dives on the shallow reefs around Lighthouse, Golden Nuggets and Chuck’s Place now known as Shrimp Pinnacle. Despite the cloudy skies there is always something to find on any dive and we spent the day seeking out leaf fish, nudis and shrimps, having manicures and for some a quick teeth clean. It being Sue’s birthday the later afternoon and evening was spent partying with our wonderful crew, singing songs, with Richie on guitar and some very interesting animal noises from all the guests- Jon & I included!
Next stop Namena! Things were brightening up, but still not so much that Fiji Siren was able to get us closer to the dive sites. Whilst at anchor in the shelter of Namena Island, the dinghies ferried us to the dive sites of Black Forest, Chimneys and Neds Nuts for the morning and Grand Central Station, the Arch and Kansas in the afternoon, each site punctuated with black corals, seafans and colourful soft corals. Despite the longer dinghy rides we all enjoyed the dives immensely – seeing slender and ornate ghost pipefish, leaf fish, nudis, dragonets, long nosed hawkfish, turtles, stingray, schools of barracuda and trevally, white tip & grey reef sharks and of course the now much sought after Severns pygmy seahorses; at just 5mm and in a strong current they were pretty hard to spot let alone photograph, though Ursula managed to take a great shot of the ghost pipefish and pygmy seahorse in the same frame! Can you spot the pygmy seahorse from Ursula’s photo?
The final day of our trip had arrived as we pulled into Bligh Waters and E6 the sun was coming up and it looked to be a bright sunny day perfect for the light coming into the Cathedral during our dives. Jumping from the Fiji Siren or rolling in from the tender we made our final 2 dives of our liveaboard safari amidst the sea fans & orange soft corals. Ju found us a pair of slender ghost pipefish– a red one and new sighting for me! The last dive I managed 95 minutes before I succumbed to the tepid 27C water temp (in just my hooded vest & boardies). Then there was time to warm up on the sundeck as the crew washed the gear and hung it out to dry. Making our way back to Volivoli the laughter was still ringing through the air and the rain cloud chasing us could certainly not dampen the spirits of our fun loving group. Sails up and photos taken the rain final caught us and we retreated to the dining deck for a few well-earned G&Ts or a “whiskey tipple” as Leps, Star and Andrew prepared our BBQ feast. Though we’d managed to smile and banter throughout the wind and rain, there were tearful farewells between guests and crew the following morning and again as the first transfer van load (myself included) headed off for Nadi and our flights home…. But at least we have plans to meet up in the future – at dive shows, on Siren yachts… or even in the Galapagos! Its always only ‘goodbye for now’.
Thanks to the fabulous crew of the Fiji Siren for hosting us on our 10-nights through the wonder of Fiji:-
Capt. Julian – navigated us through safely and somewhat smoothly and thanks also for hooking in some delicious tuna
Engineer / Boat team Ben, Clinton, Richie & Ben – perfection and speed on the tank filling, dinghy assistance and just keeping all running “ship shape” and for “the guns!”
Chefs Andrew & Leps – you whipped up feast after feast maybe even Inge put on a few kgs!
Dive Guides – Matai, Ju and Owen, “o-some” spotting skills, great attention and so much fun
Housekeeper Star– clean cabins & fresh warm towels after every dive, should be renamed “Super-star”!
Host Knox – best post dive smoothies ever – truly “the man on the spot”
And… Cruise Director Jon – for staying vaguely sane despite my constant heckling
A great team – we can’t wait to come back and experience your Fijian hospitality once again – Vinaka